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Gonzaga Basketball

Former Gonzaga forward Filip Petrusev dealt to Clippers as part of Harden trade

Philadelphia’s Filip Petrušev chats with an official during a July summer league game against New York against New York at Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas.  (By Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

Just two days after making his long-awaited NBA debut with Philadelphia, Filip Petrusev is heading across the country to join a new team.

The former Gonzaga standout was part of a seven-player trade, including 10-time All-Star James Harden, between the 76ers and Los Angeles Clippers that also involved multiple draft picks.

Petrusev, selected 50th overall by Philadelphia in the 2021 draft, had played professionally overseas for three years before signing a two-year contract, the first year partially guaranteed for roughly $560,000, with the 76ers.

The Serbian native didn’t play in Philly’s first two games before logging 2 minutes, 41 seconds in Sunday’s rout over Portland.

Harden has been pushing for a trade to the Clippers for months after clashing with Philadelphia president of basketball operations Daryl Morey.

Petrusev’s status with the Clippers isn’t as certain. There is speculation the team will decide in the next few days if it will keep the 6-foot-11 forward. Playing time with his new team could be hard to find behind stars Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, starting center Ivica Zubac and expected reserves P.J. Tucker and Mason Plumlee.

Petrusev has logged many miles in his journey from his native Serbia to the NBA. He came to the U.S. to play at Montverde (Florida) Academy. He signed with Gonzaga and came off the bench behind Brandon Clarke and Rui Hachimura on a team that won 33 games before falling to Texas Tech in the 2019 Elite Eight. Seven players, including Petrusev, from that team have played in the NBA, and three more are playing professionally overseas.

Petrusev was a force as a sophomore, averaging 17.5 points and 7.9 rebounds while earning West Coast Conference Player of the Year honors. He then opted to leave GU to begin his pro career with Mega Soccerbet in Serbia.

The 76ers stashed Petrusev in Europe for two more seasons after drafting him in the second round in 2021. Petrusev showed off his scoring ability – he averaged 23.6 points in his first pro season and nearly 11 points in 2022-23 with Crvena Zvezda in the Euroleague – while becoming more comfortable playing on the perimeter. He’s made 41.2% on 3-pointers and 62.6% on shots inside the arc over the past three seasons.

The 23-year-old also played in the NBA Summer League the last three summers with Philadelphia.

Petrusev joins a Clippers’ roster that features Harden, George, Leonard and Russell Westbrook.

Petrusev has played with perhaps the two best centers in the world, including a short stint with Joel Embiid in Philly and Nikola Jokic on the 2022 Serbian national team.

“I mean, he’s been good, like all the other vets,” Petrusev said recently of learning from Embiid. “He’s obviously the MVP, so he does his own thing. But yeah, he’ll let me know something if he sees it.”

Jokic led Denver to the NBA title last season.

“I didn’t know how strong he was, really,” Petrusev said. “I mean, it’s one thing on the TV … but this is a different level of physicality that he has that I wasn’t aware of. And then just seeing how on top of that, how skilled he is. You can always pick up something from him every day.”